The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [March 2001]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week’s chart will be from March 31st, 2001.

  1. Diamond Rio – “One More Day” +3
  2. Jessica Andrews – “Who I Am” +2
  3. Toby Keith – “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” +3
  4. Travis Tritt – “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” +3
  5. Faith Hill – “If My Heart Had Wings” -1 [Worst Song] (Overproduced and cheesy)
  6. Keith Urban – “But For The Grace Of God” +4 [Best Song] (Yes, Urban is rated higher than Strait, Tritt…etc)
  7. Brooks & Dunn – “Ain’t Nothing Bout You” +1 (Cool sound, not so cool lyrics)
  8. Kenny Chesney – “Don’t Happen Twice” +1
  9. Tim Rushlow – “She Misses Him” +4 (I really don’t like his voice, but I can’t deny this is a damn good song)
  10. Dixie Chicks – “If I Fall (You’re Going Down With Me)” +2
  11. Martina McBride – “It’s My Time” +2
  12. Trick Pony – “Pour Me” +2
  13. Tim McGraw – “Grown Men Don’t Cry” +2
  14. Lee Ann Womack – “Ashes By Now” +3 (Those bongos are pretty cool!)
  15. SheDaisy – “Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me)” 0 (Yes, they used 4 instead of “for.” Why? I have no idea)
  16. Gary Allan – “Right Where I Need To Be” +3
  17. The Warren Brothers – “Move On” 0
  18. Jamie O’ Neal – “There Is No Arizona” +3
  19. Mark McGuinn – “Mrs. Steven Rudy” -1 (It’s catchy, but oh so creepy)
  20. Jo Dee Messina – “Burn” +1
  21. Phil Vassar – “Rose Bouquet” +3
  22. George Strait – “If You Can Do Anything Else” +3
  23. Pam Tillis – “Please” 0 (In terms of country, 0. In terms of pop I’d give this a solid +2)
  24. Garth Brooks – “Wild Horses” 0 (Not because I dislike the song, but because Garth can’t put the f***ing song on YouTube, or really anywhere for me to hear)
  25. Patty Loveless – “The Last Thing On My Mind” +3
  26. Sara Evans – “I Could Not Ask For More” +1
  27. Alan Jackson – “When Somebody Loves You” +3
  28. Montgomery Gentry – “She Couldn’t Change Me” +4 (This sort of describes me)
  29. Steve Holy – “The Hunger” +2
  30. Aaron Tippin – “People Like Us” 0 (Good sound, but I’m not a fan of the “I’m so country” lyrical template)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +56

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [January 2009]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. While I did wish to go back even further in time with our past pulse, I unfortunately ran into time constraints. Therefore, we will look at a more recent time in country music history. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from January 3rd, 2009.

  1. Rascal Flatts – “Here” 0
  2. Montgomery Gentry – “Roll With Me” +3
  3. Sugarland – “Already Gone” +3
  4. Zac Brown Band – “Chicken Fried” 0 (At least it launched their career and showed they had better songs. Oh wait, hello “Beautiful Drug”…)
  5. Brad Paisley & Keith Urban – “Start A Band” +3
  6. Alan Jackson – “Country Boy” -1 (I hate giving Alan a negative score but fair is fair)
  7. Billy Currington – “Don’t” -2 (For country. As a whole, I actually somewhat like this)
  8. Dierks Bentley – “Feel That Fire” 0
  9. Jamey Johnson – “In Color” +5 [Best Song]
  10. Blake Shelton – “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” +3 (One of the last songs I would grade as a positive for Blake)
  11. Toby Keith – “God Love Her” +3 
  12. Keith Urban – “Sweet Thing” -3 [Worst Song]
  13. Kenny Chesney & Mac McAnally – “Down The Road” +4
  14. Brooks & Dunn – “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” +2 (Was I the only one who liked this?)
  15. Lady Antebellum – “Lookin’ For A Good Time” -2
  16. George Strait – “River Of Love” +2 (See Brooks & Dunn)
  17. Randy Houser – “Anything Goes” +4 (Now he’s talking about kicking up dust in the mud or some shit like that)
  18. Pat Green – “Let Me” 0
  19. Taylor Swift – “White Horse” +3 (Prepare the pitchforks folks. I’m ready.)
  20. Darius Rucker – “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” +3
  21. Lee Ann Womack – “Last Call” +3
  22. Jake Owen – “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You” +1 (Docking points for not being overtly country, although I do like this)
  23. Jack Ingram – “That’s A Man” 0 (Too cliché)
  24. Miranda Lambert – “More Like Her” +2
  25. Josh Turner – “Everything Is Fine” +3
  26. Martina McBride – “Ride” 0
  27. Rodney Atkins – “It’s America” 0
  28. Jimmy Wayne – “I Will” -1
  29. Gary Allan – “She’s So California” 0
  30. Eli Young Band – “Always The Love Songs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +39

Not a bad chart at all. In fact, quite a lot of good stuff here. Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Josh Turner, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, and George Strait were all still on the radio and we actually have a +5 song with “In Color.” Perhaps I’m being a bit generous with that top score but I truly do think it deserves it. Even the worst song here (“Sweet Thing”) would still only be one of the worst on the modern-day charts instead of the lowest we could go. All in all, a solid top thirty.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Hodgepodge: The Confusing Saga of The Band Perry Continues…..

The Band Perry confuses me. I have no clue what their intention is within the music industry. Are they mindless drones stuck in a contract that rebrands the band every year? Or are the three Perry siblings just trying to do all the different musical genres they can? The spark notes of the band’s short history:

  • In 2010, they release their first album with the great single “If I Die Young.” It’s an album I actually enjoy with a good modern country production.
  • Two years later, the band releases their follow up album Pioneer. The album has a little bit of more edge to it with songs like “Better Dig Two”, “DONE!” and “Chainsaw” being released as singles.
  • In 2014, The Band Perry returns to total country roots with their rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” released as a standalone single. A recording that won the band a Grammy last year.
  • Late last year, the band takes a 180 turn and decides they want to be a pop group, with “Live Forever” acting as the jumping single for this transition. “Live Forever” bombs on the charts and The Band Perry stumbles through an awkward period of having their third album release get delayed, getting dropped from their label and presumably taking the reigns themselves for their pop move.
  • And now The Band Perry signs a joint deal with UMG’s Interscope and Mercury Nashville and is readying a new single for country radio titled “Comeback Kid.”

The big take away from all this is that The Band Perry’s attempt to turn pop failed…miserably. The new yellow branding and inspirational, youthful pop anthems like “Live Forever” and “Put Me in the Game Coach” crashed hard and fast. And now with “Comeback Kid,” the band is desperately trying to erase any evidence of the past 11 months. They’ve deleted all their tweets prior to the comeback branding, their website is completely redesigned with the ugly pink/beige color and typewriter text, only promoting upcoming concerts and the Fan Club. Yet going to their online store, for the moment, one can find old shirts for “Live Forever” on a page still designed for the Heart + Beat brand.

Clearly the band is moving on from the failed pop experiment and trying to reestablish themselves in country music. They’ve given no hint or preview as to what “Comeback Kid” may sound like. So maybe it’ll be more country along the lines of “If I Die Young” or “Gentle On My Mind”, or maybe it’ll be a song more in line with the Adult Contemporary musical trend hitting Nashville at the moment. But the real question is, how seriously will people take this move and return?

A year ago, The Band Perry basically admitted that they were a musical sellout by blatantly shifting to pop without warning. Are fans and radio alike ready to welcome the group back with open arms? It’s not like The Band Perry’s absence over the last year has been noticeable or left a gaping hole in country music, unlike Taylor Swift’s departure to pop. I’m sure if UMG is willing to sign the band after this failed move to pop, then the label is ready to invest some time and money to make sure The Band Perry’s image and inclusion in country music isn’t affected.

As someone who has mostly enjoyed the band’s output so far, I can’t say I’m excited about this. I think moving on and forgetting isn’t a good strategy. Personally, I’d like to see some transparency from the band about the move to pop, how it didn’t work, and why they did what they did. I do respect them for returning to country and possibly (hopefully) returning to their folksy/pop country style of music because that’s who they are. I just want to see them approach this comeback with some accountability that their attempt to move pop wasn’t a good move. Even Kimberly Perry took to twitter to throw some shade toward Little Big Town about collaborating with Pharrell, because we can only assume that was what The Band Perry was doing/wanted to do with their pop album. (Can’t link the tweet because even the siblings’ personal accounts have had tweets deleted).

August 1st will be the day that some of these questions will be answered. For some, The Band Perry may be forever tainted by this ungraceful move to pop, and others undoubtedly will be excited for the new music as if nothing happened. Aside from the fact that country radio is congested with singers desperately trying to make a name for themselves, I don’t think The Band Perry’s return to country will be smooth or grand. Maybe they’ll get a top 20 single with “Comeback Kid”, but I think this move pop hurt the band’s standing within the country music industry. And now they’re crawling back as if the last year didn’t happen. Regardless of how good their music ends up being, I think their musical saga lately has hurt the band to the point that they’ll never again be as big a country group as they were in the first half of the decade.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • The Turnpike Troubadours have a new single called “Come As You Are.” The song will officially be available for purchase tomorrow.
  • Blackberry Smoke has released a new single to promote a new album. “Waiting For the Thunder” will be the first track off their upcoming album Like an Arrow, expected October 14.
  • Lori McKenna‘s The Bird & The Rifle will be released tomorrow.
  • Hillary Scott‘s Love Remains will also be released tomorrow.
  • Cody Jinks‘ I’m Not the Devil will be released on August 12.
  • American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham will release a solo album called Rockingham on August 19.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sick and Tired” Cross Canadian Ragweed (feat. Lee Ann Womack) From the band’s great album Soul Gravity, this collaboration with Womack has some excellent lyrics and great vocal harmonies. The song managed to hit 46 on the charts in 2004.

Non Country Suggestion of the Week

Cold War Kids. I as continue to explore some modern music outside of country and Americana, I heard this song on Alternative radio and I like it a lot. I’ve been listening to the band’s new album Hold My Home and it’s good music to check out.

Tweet of the Week

In the short lived twitter feud between Dylan Scott and Wheeler Walker Jr., Dylan Scott came to defend Chewbacca Mom after she joined him on the Opry stage. If you follow WWJ on twitter, then you probably know he hates that Chewbacca Mom has become so famous from her laugh video, and made fun of modern country’s embrace of the internet sensation. Dylan Scott (who has since deleted all the tweets) claimed that Walker’s music is trash and not representative of country music. That was an entertaining half hour to witness on twitter, and I hope someone somewhere grabbed screenshots of Scott’s tweets.

iTunes Reviews for Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend”

We’re sure has hell not going to bother with reviewing “The Weekend”, as I’m pretty sure our regular readers can anticipate what we’d say about it. But in case you’re curious, these reviews about sum up how I feel.

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The consensus here speaks volumes.

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [February 2002]

Hello everyone! You didn’t read that headline wrong. The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music is indeed back! I am not a full-time writer at Country Perspective but I have come back to do this piece every week. I missed it and I know people were disappointed to see it go again. With the recent revamping of the current pulse, it’s a fitting time to come back. Thanks to Josh for letting me come back!

Anyway, this is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every week, I will take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I will use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from February 9th, 2002.

  1. Steve Holy – “Good Morning Beautiful” 0
  2. George Strait – “Run” +3
  3. Brad Paisley – “Wrapped Around” +2
  4. Alan Jackson – “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” +4
  5. Brooks & Dunn – “The Long Goodbye” +2 
  6. Jo Dee Messina & Tim McGraw – “Bring On The Rain” +2
  7. Tim McGraw – “The Cowboy In Me” +2
  8. Garth Brooks – “Wrapped Up In You” -2
  9. Aaron Tippin – “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” +2
  10. Martina McBride – “Blessed” -1
  11. The Dixie Chicks – “Some Days You Gotta Dance” +2
  12. Tracy Byrd – “Just Let Me Be In Love” +1
  13. Joe Diffie – “In Another World” +2
  14. Toby Keith – “I Wanna Talk About Me” -5 [Worst Song]
  15. Rascal Flatts – “I’m Movin’ On” +4
  16. Sara Evans – “Saints and Angels” +2
  17. Chris Cagle – “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” +3
  18. Kenny Chesney – “Young” 0
  19. Trace Adkins – “I’m Tryin'” +3
  20. Phil Vassar – “That’s When I Love You” +1
  21. Blake Shelton – “All Over Me” +1
  22. Tommy Shane Steiner – “What If She’s An Angel” +1
  23. Toby Keith – “My List” +3
  24. Cyndi Thomson – “I Always Liked That Best” +1
  25. Lee Ann Womack – “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” +4 [Best Song]
  26. Emerson Drive – “I Should Be Sleeping” +1
  27. Steve Azar – “I Don’t Have To Be Me (‘Til Monday)” +2
  28. Carolyn Dawn Johnson – “I Don’t Want You To Go” +2
  29. Kevin Denney – “That’s Just Jessie” +3
  30. Travis Tritt – “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” +4

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +48

So as you can see, the music in mainstream country from the past definitely defeats the charts of today. It’s interesting to see how trends can affect certain songs in mainstream country music though. There was definitely an influx of pop sounds in country during this time, only back then they didn’t hit you over the head with it.  The country was actually more prominent than the pop sound! Unbelievable, I know.

Anyway, the more pop leaning production on some tracks is what really holds them back from higher scores. Either way however, there’s only one outright terrible song here with Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me.” You thought “Dirt Road Anthem” introduced rap into country? Think again. The only other bad songs here come from Garth Brooks and Martina McBride. The former is annoying as all heck and the latter is just too overproduced for my tastes. Still, not terrible.

The best songs here are pretty easy to pick out as well. I know it’s been polarizing for some but I always was moved by Alan Jackson’s song. The always excellent Travis Tritt and Lee Ann Womack of course delivered quality songs as well. Hell, even Rascal Flatts had a great song with “I’m Movin’ On,” and it’s surprisingly one of the most outright country ones here.

If you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Hodgepodge: Revisiting Radio Programming Issues and the Tomato Problem

Keith Hill’s comments on females at country radio took the country music world by storm last year. Just to quickly refresh your memory Hill said “The tomatoes of our salad are the females.” This was in the context of calling males the lettuce and encouraging radio program directors to take females out of rotation in order to maximize ratings. As I’m sure you remember, reactions to Hill’s comments were fierce. Josh’s response in The Hodgepodge took a look at the larger, underlying issue of the lack of overall quality on radio.

I think you can make the argument that there hasn’t been much improvement on either front: female representation or quality. Looking at The Pulse from June 13, 2015 (published the same week as the previously linked Hodgepodge), there were two solo females on the charts in the top 10: Carrie Underwood (7) and Kelsea Ballerini (8). One female duo with Maddie & Tae at 24, and a female led group at 10 with Little Big Town. Also in the top 10 were two songs with female harmonies (“Wild Child” and “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools”). The overall pulse that week was -14. Compare that to yesterday’s Pulse with two solo females in the top 10: Carrie Underwood (1) and Maren Morris (10). Maddie & Tae again at 23, and then Cassadee Pope in a duet with Chris Young at 12. The pulse sits at -10.

That’s fairly even, if you ask me. In the latest issue of Country Aircheck, Lance Houston from iHeartMedia station WBWL in Boston sort of echoed Keith Hill’s comments and took it a step further. Now, before I move on, I just want to clarify that I’m not trying to restart a controversy or blow this up into something it’s not. His comments are interesting, and I think they’re worth commenting on. Houston approaches programming from balancing the logs of who is singing the song. “If you’ve got two females back to back, you don’t have a balanced log given the format’s small percentage of female music. The goal should be to make the most balanced log possible. The same thing goes with other [artist characteristics]; you don’t have a balanced log if you have three or four male duos in a row.”

From a business and programming standpoint, I completely understand that approach. You have A (female solo), B (male solo), C (female duo), D (male duo), and E (bands). In an ideal world, radio has an even distribution of A, B, C, D, and E, without ever repeating letters. But here’s the kicker from Houston’s comments: “given the format’s small percentage of female music.” The representation of A is low, and B is extremely high. Looking again at yesterday’s Pulse of the top 30, here’s the distribution: A (2 songs), B (21 songs), C (1 song), D (2 songs), E (3 songs), and we’ll classify Chris Young & Cassadee Pope as F, a Male/Female duo (1 song). So in reality, you take what you’re given and distribute the choices in the most even possible way.

Given the fact that there aren’t many female artists available for radio to choose from, we don’t get much female music on the radio. Maren Morris is a newcomer who could build on a successful run after a top 10 debut single. Carrie Underwood will release a new single soon to follow “Heartbeat” at number one, Kelsea Ballerini’s “Peter Pan” is on its way, and Miranda Lambert is working on new music. Jennifer Nettles, Cam, Brandy Clark, Martina McBride, and Brook Eden all have songs in the bottom half of the top 60.

It’s a slow process, but we could see more females impacting radio. It’s possible, given the recent success of Cam, Kelsea Ballerini, and now Maren Morris. I think the outcry after the tomato comments could have influenced this, but we have to understand it’ll take time. We’re coming off the bro-country era. Programmers can’t just flip the switch and go 50/50 distribution between males and females. But labels can up their rosters to include more females, or even make way for non-music row artists to be played.

Just last year, quality albums from Whitney Rose, Lindi Ortega, and Hailey Whitters provide some great music to choose from. Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe and Lee Ann Womack are familiar faces who get ignored. Aubrie Sellers’ debut album is excellent. I’d be okay if she got a chance from nepotism, like Thomas Rhett did, if it meant hearing Sellers on the radio. I’d also argue that the aforementioned females would also up the quality of music on the charts if they’re given the chance.

Unfortunately, the business side may not pave the way for the quality side of music. We may never see the day of high female representation on the charts, and it pains me to say it. As much as I’d like to see it, the label attitudes of the label executives would have to drastically change. I have a better chance of getting a country record deal than that happening. And as radio slowly slips away for other outlets, this whole conversation may be a moot point someday. But until that day comes, I hope the winds of change blow in the direction of a higher female representation on country radio. I think the demand is there, and the supply is certainly available.

Upcoming/Recent Country Releases

  • Southern Family is finally released tomorrow. I’ve listened to it on NPR First Listen, and I enjoyed it. You’ll see Josh’s review soon.
  • William Michael Morgan releases his debut EP tomorrow as well.
  • Maren Morris announced that her debut album, Hero, will be released on June 3.
  • Randy Houser‘s next single will be “Song Number 7.” We will review the single, but not Fired Up. 
  • Kenny Chesney is trying to be cryptic on social media to get fans excited for an upcoming announcement. Most likely, on March 24, Chesney will give us details on some new music, be it a single, album, or both.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Leave the Pieces” by The Wreckers. The Wreckers, made up of Jessica Harp and Michelle Branch, had a short life in country music. One successful album in 2006 yielded two top ten hits: “My, Oh My” at #9 and this song as their only number one. I’m a big fan of this song and I wish we could have had more music from this duo.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Ray LaMontagne Ouroboros. LaMontagne’s newest album was produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. It’s a heavier, psychedelic-like album calling back to a classic rock approach to music production. Just like old vinyl, the album is broken into two parts, emulating the need to flip the record over. The production over shadows LaMontagne’s signature vocals, but it’s still a good offering from this rock singer-songwriter.

Tweet of the Week

This is a great picture of Sturgill and Merle.

Two Randy Houser iTunes Reviews

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As I said, we’re not reviewing Fired Up as a whole because its way too long and overrun with the same, low quality crap. Though this first review would have you think otherwise. I’d argue that the album is full of filler.

As for the second review, that comparison to Toby Keith is hilarious! Sharing it with Josh, he agreed that it’s an accurate comparison given that both singers are talented, yet put out clichéd music. But this person’s reasoning? HA! If Houser didn’t put out 17 songs of radio pandering bull crap, then I’d agree. “Like a Cowboy”, or most of Houser’s first couple albums is the kind of country music that’s good. You don’t sell out like this to get “earned” recognition.